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Thursday, November 01, 2001

Our Opinion

Fear Reigns Supreme

Sing along of violence
and listen for the sound
of all the little soldiers
that start to come around
start with a rumor
a whisper in the ear
suspicion don’t take very
long before it turns
to fear….

Frightened of the humans
frightened of their stares
frightened of the poisons
they pump into the air
frightened of the chemicals
they spray onto the land
frightened of the power
they hold within their hands….

Frightened of the children
who won’t know how to cope
with a world in rack and

Fear can be a
bum thing a silly and
a dumb thing, fear
can be the one thing
that keeps us in the dark.

Zounds, The Curse of the Zounds, 1981

In 1981, the vision of the English anarchopunk band Zounds was apocalyptic. The band described a world in chaos, brought upon by technological mayhem. If one had been asked then to attribute a historical reality to the canvas painted by the Zounds, it was unlikely to have been New York City and America at the beginning of the new millennium. However, with rumors of terrorists seeking licenses to fly cropdusters, cases of anthrax infection multiplying rapidly, public announcements of imminent new terrorist attacks, and suspicion emerging as the public’s dominant sentiment, one can easily now place the Zounds’ landscape within a particular historical context: America, 2001.

The smoke that lingered for days above downtown Manhattan has cleared. The “indistinguishable” smell of something familiar, which the island’s population had chosen not to identify, and which had tortured them for so many weeks, seems to have slowly dissipated after the fall’s first strong winds. Now, however, it is fear that has begun taking hold of people, becoming entrenched in the public’s minds and souls.

To realize that fear is now embedded inside us, one only need look into the crowd’s frightened eyes every time a “suspicious” face enters the subway, or the train comes to a sudden halt. Or detect people’s nervousness when opening their mail. Or notice the reaction of travelers when passengers are randomly taken off lines at terminal gates to be checked before entering an airplane. Or, finally, gaze upon the strangely half-empty theaters, restaurants, and cinemas throughout the city of New York, the once and (we continue to hope) future cultural capital of America.

Fear lacks a language, but resides deep inside us, in a primordial space preexisting language. That which lacks a language, however – which can’t be expressed by language – is bound to be misapprehended, to be misunderstood. If security before September11 was excessive in its negligence, security after September 11 appears excessive in its use.

The overwhelming presence of security measures around us does not alleviate our fears, but rather raises them to a higher level. The public knows that visibility does not mean effectiveness in this case. The first step toward gradually removing fear from our midst is removing from around us those things that constantly remind us that there is something out there of which we should be afraid.

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